Less than 48 hours after publicly criticizing President Trump’s proposed education budget, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent found himself face to face with Trump’s wife, first lady Melania Trump.
Avossa was escorting Trump and China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan, on a tour of Bak Middle School Friday, meaning some time up and close with the first lady.
Avossa didn’t bring up Trump’s education budget or his concerns about the effects of the president’s proposed cuts to federal grant programs for public schools.
But he had a different request – help convincing the new U.S. education secretary to visit the county’s schools.
“I asked if she would support a visit to a school by Secretary of Education (Betsy) DeVos,” Avossa said. “I asked her flat out.”
Avossa said he is worried about DeVos’ familiarity with public schools and said he wanted an opportunity to show her some of the innovative things that the county’s public schools are doing. President Trump’s nomination of Devos was controversial because she has never worked as a professional educator.
“Her experiences are limited,” he said, “and she might take the time to listen to folks who are out in the field.”
The first lady gamely agreed, Avossa recalled, saying that she and President Trump have seen the county’s public school students give musical performances at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s golf courses and had always been impressed.
“She told me ‘I would love to have her visit schools here,’” Avossa said.
It’s not the first time Avossa has pushed for DeVos to visit. In March, he posted an invitation on Twitter to her and President Trump to visit “next time you’re in town,” and he said he told the first lady Friday that he would follow up with an official letter of invitation.
His goal, he said, is to help DeVos “understand a little bit more about the work.”
Avossa said he was far from convinced that his lobbying efforts would be successful with DeVos, who last week toured public schools in Miami. But he said he though it was worth a try.